“The upcoming two years will be a defining point for the Korean startup ecosystem”
KJ Byeon, KStartup
Started as a pilot program in 2012, Kstartup officially launched in January 2013 and is now regarded as the biggest acceleration / incubation program in Korea. Supported by both Korean and American corporations (including Google, Banks Foundation for Young Entrepreneurs, and SK Planet), it focuses on early stage startups that aim to build global companies. Founders are in the program for three months, during which time they are given support in developing their ideas and are mentored by Silicon Valley-based entrepreneurs, marketers, designers, and investors.
“Our uniqueness lies in bringing mentors from Silicon Valley. 90% of our mentors are from Silicon Valley, 5% from New York and maybe 2 to 5% from Beijing”
To date, Kstartup has accelerated 40 hardware and software startups from 4 batches over the past 2 years. As a non-profit accelerator, they incubate only early-stage startups, meaning teams without existing services. Of the first 30 startups to be accelerated, 21 had no product when they entered the program. Of the remainder, nine companies had a prototype and of those, seven had already raised funding. The program provides $40K investment to all teams.
“The best scenario for our companies would be to raise funding or get acquired by a Silicon Valley company”
As the program focuses on early-stage companies, it takes more time to develop and build relationships abroad. One of the main success stories is Korbit, a well-known Korean bitcoin company. They joined the program in the 2nd batch, as a two-person team. Korbit’s success is rooted in the fact that it attracted Silicon Valley big name investors and raised funds from, among others, Tim Draper, Angel List’s Naval Ravikant and SV Angel’s David Lee. They are now regarded as the most important company developing the Bitcoin industry in Korea.